Over the years I have grown a greater appreciation for the blues and ways that one can expand on their vocabulary choices in soloing. That may sound a bit backwards to some of you. I can tell you that in my early years, I did not focus on blues playing, nor did I take the steps to get that foundation. It was not until the last five to ten years that I really started feeling inspired by the blues. Instead, in those early days, I opted to learn three-note-per-string modes and scales (thanks to Joe Satriani), as well as jazz based concepts. Sure, I knew what the pentatonics were then and I used them, but I could never get the feel or the phrasing of blues. Fast forward 30 years and here I am. Still not very bluesy by any means, but with my knowledge base of scales and how to apply them I decided to bridge the gap between the blues and fusion. Which leads to a blues transfusion of sorts and the inspiration for my next Foundry Course.
Let’s look at some ways to bridge the gap and put some fusion into your blues!
(Ex. 1) If you know the pentatonics and the blues well and you feel like you want some different choices to spice your lines and start you on your way to new ideas – this will help! For dominant-based blues there are some options that you should consider. One way to get outside sounds is to combine both the blues scale and the mixolydian scale into a hybrid scale that adds the minor third, flat five as well as the major seventh in relation to the root of the chord. Let’s say the chord is a G7 then we would have a Bb, Db and F#. You could also add the Eb as well and see how that adds more tension.
(Ex. 2) That keeps us close to the root of the chord, but what if you want to use even more outside flavors? Well, you can try the harmonic minor. This one I like because it adds a more exotic flavor and creates nice tension and resolution. If we stick with our G7 chord we have to think of this chord as a V7 of a minor key. The would be C harmonic minor. So the notes you would have would be C, D, Eb, F, G, Ab and B.
(Ex. 3) I like the harmonic minor scale options because you can tie in some nice diminished ideas as well. This adds to more interesting resolutions.
(Ex. 4) Harmonic major is an interesting choice mainly because it focuses on the flat 9 of the dominant. This can have a cool effect which yields slightly diminished sounds against the dominant chord. If we stick with G7 we can use C harmonic major – I look at it like a C major scale with a flat sixth. It’s a haunting and beautiful sound in my opinion and the way you can resolve it to a chord tone – either G, F, D or B makes it a good choice to work with.
(Ex. 5) Melodic minor is one of my all time favorites as you can look at the dominant chord in 2 ways. One as a V7 chord and the other way is to look at it as a IV7 chord or lydian dominant chord. So there are essentially two melodic minor choices for every dominant 7 chord. In the example we look at C melodic minor over G7, but if you were to look at as a lydian dominant then it moves to the position of a IV chord and that belongs to D melodic minor. You can even use both C and D melodic minor as well to build lines from. There’s a great amount of info there to work with!
All of these options can be used independently or in conjunction with each other and remember that your resolutions must be strong and convincing in order for the listener to not feel as though the notes might be “out of place.” If the resolutions are weak, then the tension may not feel as though is was resolved. This skill takes a while to develop and I suggest working on improvising with these scales slowly and deliberately. This will train your mind to slow down and process what it is you need to do. This may feel unnatural but yields great results. Then when you are up to the desired tempo you will feel prepared and not intimidated. You will be able to make music which is the Ultimate goal that we are after in the first place! All the best!Download Lesson Tab